Mr. Xi made no secret about what his ideal capitalist should be like. Ten days after the Ant IPO debacle, he visited a museum exhibition dedicated to Zhang Xian, an industrialist who had been active for over a century. Zhang helped build his hometown of Nantong and opened hundreds of schools. Trade figures in the Xi era, the message went, they should put their nation ahead of trade.
In a July meeting with members of the business community, Mr. Xi pointed to Zhang as a role model and urged him to give him patriotic status as his highest quality. (Mr. Xi reportedly did not mention that Zhang had gone bankrupt.)
Mr. Ma has his own high-profile philanthropic projects, such as several initiatives in rural education and an award to help develop entrepreneurial talent in Africa. But in many other respects, the flamboyant technology entrepreneur is quite different from Zhang.
He has long enjoyed a better reputation than his peers in construction, real estate, and other industries, which may have grown from neglecting environmental regulations or cultivating close government relations to exploiting employees.
He is famous for making bold statements and challenging the authorities. In 2003, he formed Alipay, which later became part of the Ant group, placing his business empire at the center of a state-controlled world of finance.
“If anyone needs to go to jail for Alipay, let me be,” he said told His colleagues at the time.
He sometimes dared the government to punish his disobedience. About the ant business, he said On many occasions, “If the government needs it, I can give it to the government.” His head Partner The line also repeated.
At the time, some people took these comments seriously. Those who know him well considered him a very “jack thing” to say. “Alipay is paying for the country? Jack Ma is just saying,” Read the 2010 headline personal opinion In China Business News newspaper.